Students from Bristol Metropolitan Academy have been celebrated for successfully completing an aviation-focused skills and mentorship programme.

The students, aged between 13 and 14, have been working alongside Airbus mentors learning about aviation and gaining first-hand experience of the aerospace industry through the Airbus Foundation’s Flying Challenge Programme. Last week they each took to the skies for a flying lesson where they were handed the controls of a light aircraft. They took part in a special graduation ceremony at Bristol Metropolitan Academy on 17 July.

The programme is the Airbus Foundation’s largest international youth mentoring scheme in which they complete a skills portfolio and achieve a nationally recognised qualification. The students have built and tested drones, learned more about aviation and spent time at Airbus’ site in Filton.

Malcolm Ridley, Airbus Experimental Test Pilot based in Toulouse, was born four miles from Bristol Metropolitan Academy and was a guest speaker at the event. He said: “It’s a huge pleasure to be here. In my career I have nearly 10,000 hours of flight time, have worked in the sector for 35 years and still love flying. I think I have just enough time before I retire to see the next golden age of aerospace, with projects such as Airbus’ hybrid-electric flight demonstrator E-Fan X, but these students can by working towards the design, making and maintaining of aircraft. What the aerospace sector will need is ‘imagine-eering’, the practice of people offering new ideas coupled with good, solid engineering.

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The graduating cohort has achieved qualifications in the Level II Basic Skills certificate and the Industrial Cadets Gold Award for their efforts, which they received at the graduation ceremony. Sally Melvin from Ablaze Bristol, Bristol City Youth MP Shakur Grant and Nikki Elliot from the Engineering Development Trust presented the students with their certificates.

I am immensely proud of the students. It’s an experience they worked so hard for and they had to earn their place on the programme. Every person that I have spoken to that has engaged with the students has spoken about them so well. I hope the experiences the students have had will be life-changing.” Bristol Metropolitan Academy Principal, Cameron Shaw

A student of the year certificate was presented by Airbus Head of Filton Plant, Chris Grier, to Flying Challenge student Jamie Smitheram and he won a work experience placement at Airbus.

Raza Hussain, 14, from Bristol Met said: “I have enjoyed being a part of the Flying Challenge and the programme has educated me as well as building my confidence. I would like to do similar work in the future.

Airbus Community Engagement Officer, Hannah Hammond, said: “It has been tremendous to witness the progress that these graduating students have made while completing the Airbus Flying Challenge. Airbus in the UK is committed to projects involving schools, such as Bristol Metropolitan Academy, that focus on youth development and education.

The ceremony also welcomed the school’s next cohort of Flying Challenge students, who have been specially selected for a unique opportunity to work alongside Airbus mentors and develop their love of learning.

The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Bristol is Councillor, Jos Clark, was in attendance. She said: “It has been really good to see qualitative partnerships and the children working with Airbus mentors. They have obtained such great life skills from this and the overall benefit to the young people is extraordinary. You could really see how excited the new cohort are to be presented with this opportunity.

©Barbara Evripidou/